‘Brahn boots’

February 13, 2023 10:20
Photo: Reuters

In a day and age where so many men in suits wear designer trainers of one brand or another, the very idea of wearing leather shoes that match the rest of one’s attire may appear a trifle antedeluvian.

But am I the only one whose sense of sartorial aesthetic is offended by men who wear brown coloured shoes with blue or dark coloured suits?

Conceivably, a dark burgundy might just escape criticism but the tendency appears to be to don luminous, almost fluorescent brown shades from orange to yellow, that scream ‘look at me’.

Perfectly appropriate for cyclists to wear at night, to draw their presence to the attention of other road users, but what on earth possesses men in dark business suits to clothe their pedal extremities in coverings more reminiscent of Donald Duck?

The late and lamented Stanley Holloway, most famous for his portrayal of Eliza Doolittle’s father in My Fair Lady, used to deliver a humorous Cockney monologue about the mourners at a funeral looking aghast at one of their number who wore brown boots:
“But brahn boots!
I ask yer... brahn boots!
While all the rest,
Wore decent black and mourning suits!”

Is there nothing sartorially sacred any longer?

Judging from appearances, it is now de rigueur for the groom to wear flaming brown shoes with his dark suit at the wedding. What must the beautifully gowned bride think of such bad taste on first catching sight of her betrothed standing at the altar, his feet shining more brightly than her? The wonder is that she does not turn tail and flee being wedded to such a philistine.

The full impact of this descent into a fashion world devoid of colour consciousness or sensibility to the occasion struck me recently when waiting in HSBC’s Premier Account lounge for my personal Manager.

Immediately identifiable by their in-house name-tags hanging from their necks, every single male HSBC employee – with the sole exception of my Premier Manager – wore lustrous shoes across the brown colour spectrum from pink to livid brown.

In fairness, I ought to record that they were all either highly polished or manufactured from a patent leather or plastic byproduct.

This naturally prompted me to wonder whether HSBC’s higher management strata demand that their male employees walk around like so many tame emus?

I can well understand that wearing dark brown shoes might prove necessary given all the corporate shit that the bank’s staff have to wade through, but that aside, this seems a very far cry from the conservative dress code of yesteryear’s bankers.

Imagine, for a moment, the disastrous effect on the tension if the eponymous Mr. Banks of Mary Poppins fame had worn brown shoes with his bowler hat and wing collar.

Indeed, one is tempted to ask, rhetorically, whether such footwear is more appropriate to a laundry than a bank? That said, the distinction does seem to be increasingly blurred.

I might well have foregone the desire to pontificate on the mismatch of shoes to formal clothing had I not noticed a photograph of Rishi Sunak standing in front of a tank with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the British Prime Minister with his trousers stuffed into the top of a pair of calf-length brown boots which he had not bothered to lace up.

Whereas we were accustomed to Boris Johnson, the worst dressed British Prime Minister of all time whose suits were courtesy of Wurzel Gummidge’s tailor, up to this moment Sunak had always appeared in public very nattily dressed.

Making every allowance for Sunak’s apparent objective to dress in a style that reflected the military setting, in clothes that resonated with the Ukrainian leader’s standard working gear, Rishi looking as though he had not had time to lace up his boots did not instil confidence.

The overall impression that one is left with is that this slipping of vestiary standards is indicative of laxity across the board.

It was manifestly unsafe to entrust the wellbeing of the British people into the hands of Boris Johnson, a man whose dress reflected his true vocation as that of circus clown.

But how secure do we feel about leaving our money with men whom one can only conclude are colour sensitivity blind?
Paraphrasing Stanley Holloway’s monlogue:
‘Fancy trustin’ anything to someone
Wearin’ brahn boots?’

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